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Anonymity vs. democracy

Normally, when you want to give your vote in a democratic election, you are required to register as a voter and to identify yourself before allowing to cast a vote. This is done in order to prevent fraud: everyone should be able to vote only once. In real life, you trust the people running the election to not disclose your vote. Or even if they do, it might not really be such a big deal as the elections are rare and your vote might not reveal anything you wouldn’t want to share with others anyway.

In an online environment, such as WOT, where you regularly vote for websites, your votes can potentially contain information that you might not care to disclose. While we do our best to protect your privacy, you shouldn’t have to take our word for it. Therefore, we have built WOT so you don’t have to register in order to vote. In fact, we don’t expect you to tell us anything about yourself.

As you can see, this creates a problem for our small election that plagues most online polls: how can we prevent fraud? What’s there to stop anyone from stuffing our ballot with fraudulent votes? Nothing! And that’s where the math comes in.

Instead of your regular democracy, where everyone has one vote, what we have in WOT can be called a meritocracy. In our system, all votes are evaluated by their merit. Unlike in a typical meritocracy, we don’t know anything about you, your social status, or your skills, but we do know how you have voted in the past. Using a number of statistical algorithms, we compare your voting behavior with that of other users, and determine exactly how much we can trust you.

If a user’s voting behavior is completely erratic, or we notice an actual attempt to manipulate reputations, we simply don’t trust that user’s votes as much anymore. In WOT, trust has to be earned.

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